Like the age old saying “from humble beginnings come great things”, a small town pastor from Ghana has become his village hero. Kwadwo Safo, founder of the Christ Reformed Church, has become Ghana's first car manufacturer. To the locals he is the adorned "Star of Africa".
Safo began his family business in the small town of Kumasi, Ashanti 20 years ago. His company, Kantaka Cars (an electric car manufacturing company ), began with him assembling electrical devices like TVs, sound systems, sewing machines, musical instruments, and other small gadgets. Since his childhood he always had a knack for tinkering away at objects and building devices which ever he could get his hands on, only later he got trained and worked as a welder before going on to becoming a pastor. Safo’s son, Kwadwo Safo Jr. speaks proudly of his father saying, "My father had ambition and foresight. He thought of everything in preparation of Kantanka."
Safo has become somewhat of a legend in Ghana, a country without any prior manufacturing history. His company has grown into two divisions, a section solely for car manufacturing and the other for electronic devices.
Safo Jr. added he has learned a great deal from his wise father and has been lending an extra hand in the business. "We are expanding our current production line to include a lower-end model which we will launch before the end of the year. We have made quite significant sales, including a very important one to the office of the president.” Although Safo Jr. had not planned to be in the car business after finishing his studies from London, he returned in 2009, earned a bachelor's degree in public administration before joining the family business. He says his dream of becoming a pilot has been put on hold for now.
With the slow and steady growth of Kantanka, Safo Jr. is confident that Kantanka will grow into competing with all other established foreign rival companies.
Despite the company having many positive feedbacks, many are still skeptical about the finished products. Safo Jr. thinks that one of their biggest challenges is getting the good will and trust from their customers to believe in "made in Ghana". He said "People think the doors will come off or the tires will blow off or something,". "We have a plan to build sports cars, buses and really expand in Africa with more models. Once you are determined and you want to do it, it's not hard," he further added.
The distinct "made in Ghana" cars were modeled for tough local conditions and who better to test drive it than the Ghanaian police force. The manufacturing company produces an average of 150 cars a month, with the cheapest of its three models costs about $20,000 due to high production costs for lack of electricity and fuel.
Yet, Safo Jr. has a vision much like his father, he said "We need to be able to produce at a more affordable rate. There are high import charges in Ghana,"